Your job sounds so varied – could you tell us a little more about what you do?
My work really is such a wonderful and exciting mix of things! I would say the majority of my time I can be found busking under the London Eye, which is where I directly and indirectly make my income; if not from the cash itself, then from people seeing me there and booking me for weddings and events, or just buying my music on iTunes.
What does the average day look like for you?
My work takes me all over the place and no day is the same. I can split my days into three different types.
On a busking day, I usually aim to arrive on the South Bank for 10:00 (this is to secure my busking times that day, splitting it among the other performers). I perform for three to five hours throughout the day from 11:00, sometimes until as late at 21:00 on weekends. These days are quite long with a lot of breaks, during which I write songs and drink lots of coffee.
On an event day such as a wedding, I’m usually up quite early to catch a train out to the countryside. I find myself in the most beautiful venues, shaking hands with a nervous groom and getting set up to sing the bride down the aisle. Sometimes I’m finished after the ceremony, and sometimes I’m there all day, having a three course meal before I sing the first dance in the evening.
My last variation of a day is an ‘admin’ day, where I stay at home and catch up on emails and invoices, learn new songs and write as much new material as I can.
Most of us will have watched the performers on London’s South Bank. What are the best bits about busking, and what are the challenges?
I absolutely love performing on the South Bank. The best thing about it is the people; my favourite moments are making little toddlers dance to my songs and seeing the happy faces of passersby. A lot of tourists stop by and I love to hear their stories of where they’re from and how they came to be in London.
People can also be part of the challenge. For every 10 wonderful interactions, you get one nasty one and that can really stick with you.
What would you say is the most exciting opportunity you’ve had in your career so far?
I think the amount that I’ve been able to travel has been the most exciting and unexpected part of my career. As I play in a very tourist-heavy area, I’ve gained some international fans, and some have flown me out to perform in Austria, Germany, France and even the US. I’m very grateful for that and hope it continues!
How did you get into being a full-time singer, songwriter and busker after you graduated from Southampton, and what inspired you to choose that path?
While I was at Southampton, I spent a lot of my evenings and hours between lectures in the local music venues. I played open mics, joined a band and gigged a lot, and even performed in the Students’ Union a few times.
I knew that performing was what I really enjoyed, and when the opportunity to pursue that came along I had to grab it with both hands. I suppose what inspired me was the reality of the job market when I graduated. Instead of being frightened, I decided to just create my own path for the time being. When I started to make money from music, I never looked back!
What are your memories from your time at the University of Southampton?
I remember Avenue Campus so well, the walk from my house to lectures and early morning walks to the library. I worked really hard on my degree; I was in the library like it was my job! And of course, there are Sobar and Jesters; I remember the walk to those very well too.
Was there anything you particularly loved about your course?
One of my lecturers in particular, Dr Devorah Baum. She was my personal tutor, and I took every class she taught because I just thought she was the wisest person I’d ever met.
I loved the challenge of reading all the books too. It was like a really intense book club and I took so much pleasure in getting all the books at the start of the term and thinking “I’ll have read all of these soon.”
Are there any unexpected ways in which your university experience has helped or influenced your career?
I think the fact that I have an English degree takes people by surprise sometimes, because I’ve chosen to do something that doesn’t appear to use the skills I learned. But, actually, it has been a real blessing to have it under my belt; I’ve assisted with writing codes of conduct for street performers across London, and it has given me a lot of confidence to challenge restrictions put on street art and articulate myself in those situations.
I also feel that studying English changed the way I have approached life in general. In our first year, we did a Critical Thinking module; it wasn’t my favourite, but I remember discussing how language can dictate the way you think about everyday things. I’d never really thought in this way before. When I went on to write my third-year dissertation about dystopias, and how they break down social constructs, I started to think about how the jobs that people do are just social constructs and if you wanted to create your own job or business, you could just do it.
I don’t think I would have had the courage to step outside the box and create my own career path if it weren’t for this particular module.
The University’s Alumni team are launching a new campaign, asking our alumni community to share their musical memories of their time at Southampton. Are there any particular songs that take you back to your time at Southampton and conjure up fond memories?
For me it has got to be The Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling. It was really popular in my first year, and I was just a bright-eyed fresher with my new flat mates having the absolute time of my life. I will never hear that song and not think of my Fresher’s T-shirt, The Cube and my halls.
What’s next for you?
I don’t feel I’ve quite cracked the festival scene yet, and I would love to play some more of those in the coming years. I’d also like to be brave and travel more as a performer. I feel so safe in my London bubble, but I know it’ll always be there to go back to, so I need to start getting on the road more. There is so much of the UK to explore!
What advice would you give to our students who are just starting their time at university, or who want to follow a similar career path?
Just say yes to as much as you can; all the societies, the nights out and yes, all the lectures, even the 9:00 starts!
I’d also say that the people I met at university by pure chance are how I ended up being able to do this full time. They believed in me and encouraged me, and some of them really got me started. A friend who studied English happened to be a skilled web designer, and helped me set up my first website, and I bought my first amp based on advice from my friend who was studying Economics and Management Sciences. Without these people I wouldn’t be doing this. University is about so much more than simply your course.